The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you come up with a new startup idea?” is written by Mitali Rakhit, founder and CEO of Globelist.
As I was pondering how to write an answer to this week’s question, I realized that my own startup idea journey was not linear enough to give exact, step-by-step recommendations. In fact, the current model has deviated so far from the initial idea—as is the case with most startups—that I’m not sure I could ever perfectly re-create that path again. That’s the point, though. There is no such thing as “perfect” in the world of startups. There is only “okay” and “better.” The sooner that founders get used to the idea of constant and iterative product improvement, the happier they will be. Here are some takeaways for early-stage founders:
Don’t be afraid to start over
There have been several times throughout my startup journey so far where my cofounder and I have had to throw away everything that we had spent months working on. I want to say that it was difficult, but it was easier than I thought it would be. At the end of the day, we wanted to have a company that was making money, and we didn’t mind starting over a million times (or more) if we thought that goal could eventually be achieved.
Take criticism with a grain of salt
There was a time when I went to a networking event and a young man criticized not only my startup idea, but even went so far as to insult my physicality. I was startled at the time and didn’t quite know how to react, but when the dust settled a few hours later, I realized that a few points he made had some merit behind them. This allowed me to pivot again and address a much larger market. Sometimes you need to put things into context to get a clearer vision of the bigger picture.
Listen to your customers
My first huge pivot came after a visit to a trade show and fashion week in Singapore. I was speaking to several designers who were lukewarm about signing up for our product. One of them was kind enough to sit me down over a plate of Black Forest cake (lucky me!) and explain how what we were doing was okay, but what we could do post-pivot would create a product that every vendor at the event would be clamoring to sign up for. One year later, I’m happy to say that she was right, and I’m so glad I took her advice.
Do your research
Never underestimate the power of data and numbers to back up your ideas. Doing extensive background research on your market and understanding its dynamics will make you appear intelligent and confident to your customers, which is critical to earning their business. Every meeting I have with a brand usually leads to questions regarding how I picked this segment of the market and what drives my intuition behind pursuing the opportunity. Once I am able to provide a solid answer backed with figures and sound reasoning, it is much easier to close a contract. Doing research will also help build your confidence when times are tough, and might even help you identify new opportunities that you were previously unaware of.
Trust your gut
At the end of the day, there will always be doubters and naysayers. As a founder, it is primarily your responsibility to drive the business forward, even if the macroeconomic climate is not in your favor in the short term. The key here is to pay more attention to long-term market trends and plan for the future. You might have to take it slow to ramp up, but eventually you will find that you have laid out a solid foundation on which to expand the business in later stages. With customer feedback and data-driven insights to guide your decision-making processes, every iteration you make will only lead you closer to identifying the best idea for your startup.
Mitali Rakhit is the founder and CEO of Globelist, providing distribution and marketing in fashion and beauty. She is also the founder of The Brown Girl Boss, a resource for current and aspiring South Asian Female Entrepreneurs. She is currently based in New York but will be opening offices in Dubai and Singapore to build out her businesses in the GCC and Southeast Asia.